Price is Money

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Habs goalie Carey Price has helped the team dominate this season

Colin Buchinski
Contributor

After making it to the Eastern Conference final in 2010, the Montreal Canadiens are back in a playoff spot and poised to make some noise.

Despite key injuries, the Canadiens have played relatively well this season. Currently, they find themselves neck and neck with the Boston Bruins for the Northeast Division lead.

This is largely thanks to the play of 23-year-old goaltender, Carey Price.

With the departure of goaltender Jaroslav Halak in June, the Canadiens came into this season with many question marks in net. However, Price, a 2005 first-round draft pick, has been stellar in net and has stolen many games for the Canadiens. Through 47 games, Price has posted a league-leading 26 wins, five shutouts and a .922 save percentage.

This season’s edition of the Habs looks similar to the team that made a miraculous playoff run last May. With a few additions this season and some fine-tuning, the Habs hope to make a similar run this year, but it will be tough considering their injury situation. Both defencemen Josh Gorges and Andrei Markov suffered season ending knee injuries and sniper Mike Cammalleri is currently out with a separated shoulder.

The Canadiens will need captain Brian Gionta and other players like Andrei Kostitsyn and Tomas Plekanec to step up. Secondary scoring from guys like Benoit Pouliot and Max Pacioretty would also be highly beneficial. Young defenceman P.K. Subban and Yannick Weber have been turning in solid performances and the Habs hope this continues.

Not mentioned above is Scott Gomez, the 7.3 million-dollar-forward, perhaps the most overpaid player in the NHL. With just 27 pts in 51 games and a -9 rating, he will need to be better. In what many call a panic move by former Montreal general manager Bob Gainey, Gomez was acquired in June 2009 prior to the entry draft from the New York Rangers. Going to the Rangers was forward Chris Higgins and prospect defenceman Ryan McDonagh. In Montreal, Gomez has yet to prove he is worth the steep price tag. The only justification for acquiring him at this point is the possibility that it may have attracted free agent forwards Gionta and Cammalleri. As a once great playmaking center, maybe the Habs just need another scoring winger to compliment Gomez’s great passing skills.

This year’s trade deadline is still a major question mark in Montreal. While it is unlikely the team will be sellers, it is unclear whether general manager Pierre Gauthier is willing to part with valuable assets in order to make this team a legitimate threat. Earlier in the year, to replace Gorges, Gauthier acquired offensive defensemen James Wisniewski from the New York Islanders. In return, the Canadiens only gave up a second round compensatory pick. It was a great move for the Habs. For once it feels like they were the team who didn’t get hosed in a trade.

Thus far, Wisniewski has done a good job in filling the skates of Gorges, but Markov, who is in my mind a top-10 defenceman in this league, will be very hard to replace. At a $5.75 million price tag, Markov was a bargain and a great puck moving defenceman who led one of the league’s most potent power plays. The loss of Markov is no doubt huge, but the Canadiens were able to make it to the conference final without him last year and it is possible they will do it again.

Recently, the Canadiens have been rumoured to be interested in Florida Panthers centre Stephen Weiss. If the Canadiens can add a scoring forward like Weiss, and they can get Gionta, Cammalleri, and Gomez firing on all cylinders, they will be very hard to stop. In last year’s playoffs, Cammalleri notched 15 goals while leading the team in scoring. This team has a lot of proven playoff performers.

If Montreal can get hot at the right time, look out. A puck-moving defenceman is also a need that has to be filled, but Subban has stepped up and minimized the effects of the loss of Markov.

Going forward, it is beneficial that the Canadiens finish sixth or higher in the conference standings. Drawing a first-round matchup against a big, tough, and skilled Philadelphia Flyers team is something the Canadiens do not need. Aside from the Flyers, I feel the Canadiens are good enough to beat any team in the East. If the players once again buy into coach Jacques Martin’s defensive system, they have a very good chance of being successful in the post-season.

Only time will tell if the Canadiens will once again return to their former glory, but Gainey had returned the team to respectability and, in the past five years, the Canadiens are one of the league leaders in playoff games played. As a fan, that’s all anyone can ask for.

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